Writers talk about this frequently. Fiction writers often say that a character wouldn’t do what they wanted, or that the characters took over the story. Of course our characters aren’t real; they can’t really take over a story, they can’t really take on a life of their own.
So where does the writing come from? And why do we have so little control?
Because no one has precisely pinned down where ideas come from writers, who love to speculate, have proposed endless theories. Stephen Johnson talks about networked inspiration and how the cafe culture provides a pot in which creativity may bubble and boil. There is little doubt that creativity flourished in the melting pot of the French Salons where copious amounts of coffee may or may not have been served.
At one time I was going around talking about the creation myths suggesting that like the universe and earth itself it all began within a swirling mass of nothing. I had students closing their eyes, looking at nothing; writing about what they saw when they saw nothing. As I recall we also speculated about whether the answer lay in the roots of trees. We considered the deep roots that we are able to tap into. Carl Jung named this the ‘collective unconscious’ and many incredibly popular self help books, written by people like Dorothea Brande and Julia Cameron (The Artist’s Way) have written extensively on the subject.
A personal favourite of mine is The Borderland: An exploration of theology in English literature, a book by Roger Bradshaigh Lloyd. My copy of this text quite literally leapt from the bookshelf into my hand in one of the second hand book shops that I frequent. Lloyd, an influential Anglican Priest talked about the Lord, or King of the Borderland being ‘Inspiration’. He names the Holy Ghost, of whom ‘no man has ever dared to give a human name’ as the sovereign of the Borderland in which the artist resides and suggests that answers to the unanswerable may be found in the Nicene Creed. Of course, at the time this affirmed my speculation that like God, in the book of Genesis, the artist makes something out of nothing. The artist is a creator, as compared to a manufacturer. One of the problems I see with self help books is that they encourage us to believe that we can manufacture things. Like Lloyd I do not believe that there is anything immoral in the “composition of pure pot-boilers since pots do need to boil if anything is to be written at all”. I do believe that we are truly creative when we are propelled by passion and find our way of tapping into the source.
With that in mind I welcome assorted story tellers, troubadours, hags, crazy people, trance tellers, bards, traveling poets, prophets, visionaries, charismatic preachers, spellbinders and holy people to join the caravan of donkeys heading towards the source. My hope is that this amazing collective will reveal quite unique ways of tapping into what artists perceive to be ‘the holy grail’.
Until now Hestia’s Hearth has only operated here in an online setting. Last night I ran my first session, with five women, at Creswick, a neighbouring town where I tutor at a Community Learning Centre. We had a wonderful night.
The secret part is what we did. This is only for the ears of Hearth members. I took along a box of natural treasures and set up a special altar to the muse. I had my old copy of Hesiod with me and we invoked the muse and talked about who Hestia was and is. Then we did one of my favourite guided imageries. We walked into a sea shelll and then shared what came from this exoerience.
I have done this exercise many times but the results never cease to inspire me. Each woman came up with a completely different scenario and we discussed each of these and talked about what they would do before coming along next week.
Each of these women, like me, have undergone significant life changes which have bought them to this Central Goldfields area. We have much in common and I am thrilled by the potentiality and how the hearth is manifesting itself. We all left feeling decidedly energized.
Perhaps we could co-ordinate things so that next week some of you are online as we work and we can see some posts go up in the online setting. Let me know if you would be interested in meeting in this way, through Facebook and this blog. That way I will be able to show these women just what is possible.
Not too long ago, Christmas 2009 to be exact; my family made our infamous Rice and Tomato soup. No need to shudder, it isn’t a cream soup!!
We sent these as Christmas gifts to family members, since a kettle of soup really doesn’t work as a gift, we also canned the soup and gave the cans as gifts.
In a perfect world I would have sent the jars of soup through the pressure canner for 2 hours at 25 p.s.i., this world is far from perfect so we didn’t trek down to the storage unit and dig until we found the pressure canner, drag it back to the house, wash it inside and out, and then set it up.
RICE AND TOMATO SOUP
1-2 quart bottles of V-8 vegetable juice
2 or 3 large cans of petite diced tomatoes
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 ham steaks, cut in 1-1/2 inch cubes
1 pound of carrots, thinly sliced
3-4 bay leaves
Lemon Pepper to taste
2-3 cups of instant rice
In a large kettle combine all the ingredients except the rice, use 2-3 inches of water in an empty bottle of the V-8 to rinse the last of the liquid from the juice and tomatoes into the soup. Simmer for 4-6 hours, or until the carrots are tender.
Add equal amounts of water and instant rice, and simmer for 1-2 hours or until the rice pops. Serve with fresh baked bread and cheese, or good ol’ grilled cheese sandwiches.
To can the soup, fill clean, hot quart-size jars to within 1 inch of the top. Remove any air bubbles and wipe off the jar before placing the lid and ring on and tightening the ring. When you have a canner load ready re-tighten the rings and fill the canner.
Set the canner for 25 pounds per square inch, once the pressure canner has sealed itself keep a constant temperature and p.s.i. for 2 hours. Allow the canner to cool naturally, once it has unsealed itself carefully remove the jars and set them in a cool, dry place for 24 hours.
Remove all of the bands and check the seals on the jars by lifting them about an inch off the counter by the metal lids. Wash the outside of the jars, label with contents and the date.
For the opening of the hospice workshop this year on Gratitude, I asked everyone to fill in a gratitude flower I had created. The petals of a sunflower seemed like an appropriate way to express gratitude since the petals allow for individual items and the sunflower is associated with sunshine and good feelings. I drew large petals surrounding the inner circle and made copies for everyone. Each person was to fill in the items he or she were grateful for, and then paste their picture that they brought along for this purpose, in the center of the sunflower. The finished project became the first page in their new Gratitude Journals that would be worked on throughout the day (for another see Timeline Goals in A Hestia Project).
This was my page which I then added my picture to. I have since put it in my Gratitude/Legacy Project, but am not sure where it will wind up since it has to do with general categories I am grateful for rather than about specific people. I do plan to then take this same sunflower outline and put in the names of people I am grateful for, probably having to add more petals to make this work or to break down the people into specific categories for each sunflower. Perhaps then even use one sunflower per person with their picture or name in the center and listing the various aspects of them I am grateful for. Since this is an ongoing project, there is no telling where or what this will develop into.
Having a private place to light a candle and incense each day or when I need a spiritual lift has been very important to me. Even when I travel I make mini shrines, adding small items I find. Today I gathered herbs and rose petals to adorn my altar. It’s not my physical hearth, but Hestia resides here, quietly with me.
I made a hearth to welcome Hestia into my life, gathering containers and vessels that speak to me of creative transformation.
vessel = woman = life
From the vessel that is the womb, having been sheltered, warmed, nourished and nurtured, life bursts forth
Hestia = cauldron = creative life
From the cauldron, in which my creative life is sheltered, nourished, protected, matter bursts forth
as we dance the dance of growth and transformation
Heather Blakey August 2009
Image: String Bag
Thanks to Hestia, string bags, prodigal children, jungle spirits and childhood are mixed in my memory cauldron.
Mum used to hang my brothers in a string bag from the door handles. I think she would rock the door back and forth and that was their cradle.
She told a story about a mother who did not pay enough attention to her children. The mother farmed everyday and like all the mothers in the village she took her child in a string bag which she hung from her head.
Sometimes she would keep it on her head whilst she worked – and other times when the sun was high she would hang it from a nearby tree. The women in the village always worked hard. The men would sit around playing cards, and chatting. Occasionally they would go for a hunt and bring back something- maybe a wild pig, a crocodile, or a bird.
They never killed a totem. That was bad luck! The women worked hard and the men went off to the city to work, and sometimes they came back, or they did not because snakes had eaten them.
This mother who hung her child nearby did something mothers are never meant to do- she left her baby hanging from the tree when she went home. She was worried about her man working in the city- and thinking about if he would be eaten by snakes.
She was not thinking about her baby as she walked home. She realised as she came into the village that although her head was heavy with thought it was not heavy with a baby. She had forgotten something. She rushed back to the field where she had been working. Her baby was gone.
All the way back to the village she cried and cried. Her man was not there to help her look for the child, but others helped. They searched the jungle, all the bubus and all the mothers. It was in vain the baby was gone.
The woman did not know what she would say to her man, she even thought it was better he would be eaten by snakes. She cried for many a year until the tears had all dried. Her husband had returned when word came to him of the disappearance of his child. Yet he could not calm the mother, and he took a second wife and left her to her hut and her dry tears.
That was a long time ago. The years passed and one day a young woman came to the village. She was unusual in speech and her green foresty dress. She seemed to come from the world of fairies and spirits. ‘Mother’ she said as she came across the woman who had lost her baby. ‘I have returned and I bring you a gift from the jungle spirits.’
The mother looked at the young woman ‘Do I know you, my child is long gone’
‘Look again mother’ said the young woman, and as she looked into her eyes the woman knew it was indeed her daughter. She took both her hands, looked in the lines of the palm. She looked up into her eyes. ‘My daughter’ and her tears became wet again and they embraced.
She told her mother of the jungle spirits and how they had taught her all about the plants of the jungle and they had sent her home now to teach it to her and to all those women who could now become healers and feed their families even better with their knowledge.
‘You were meant to leave me that day, the jungle spirits were mad with the men for sitting playing cards and getting eaten by snakes in the jungle. They decided they would take me and teach me so here I am.’
The mother sighed, glad to have her daughter home. She cooked her daughter all she had in her hut. The daughter smiled and said ‘Now let us go look at what riches there are in the jungle Mum.’ And off they went leaving all the men to play cards.
My mother had returning children, but not were all so prodigal. Her boys got eaten by the snakes of addiction. She grieves for them even now. Her dry tears do not comfort her.
She forgets about the other baby she raised- the girl who would never wear a grass skirt, and learn language- and left her to go to uni. She will never return. So she sends her two grass skirts from her aunties and offerings, in the hope she will find all the bounty of the jungle.
(c) June Perkins World Citizen Dreaming
Also part of a longer work Island Rock Girl
Hestia watches over a cauldron, filled with the offerings of creative people. An elixir, which offers access to the cosmic creative mind bubbles and broils here. Those who drink from the cauldron also make offerings, thus ensuring that the elixir remains powerful. Who knows what you will create when you sip from the cauldron? If you do take a sip make sure to add an ingredient that will strengthen Hestia’s potent brew.
Heather Blakey July 2009